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Back to the basics

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Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Sat May 17, 2014 6:48 pm

Got a replica of my second but long time straight razor off the bay. It's no name blade with the "crocus" finish, nothing anyone should pay any sort of money for. It's a decent razor and slightly larger (6/8th vs. the 5/8th of my original). I shaved with one of these from about 12 or 13 years old to my mid to late 20's.

The razor off the bay was NOS but neglected with a chewed edge from rust and corrosion due to that neglect and probably from storage in a not so dry environment (sellers basement, perhaps?).

Anyway I decided to hone this old school on a coticule from start to finish. I started with a heavy slurry but it wasn't removing enough metal fast enough to get past the divots in the edge and move to a Norton 220. The 220 was surprisingly slow as I honed with little pressure (enough to keep the edge focused on it and not the spine). It also loaded quite fast and needed lapping a few times during the operation to get just past those divots. I bread-knifed the edge periodically on the Norton 1k to see how I was doing as the 220 created large teeth. Bread-knifing reveals if you've gotten past the issues on the edge.

Once the divots were removed I moved on to the Norton 1k to set the bevel. That was pretty quick once achieved and then it was on to a coticule with heavy slurry that was gradually diluted until the edge was set. I must have made more than 2k strokes until it was nothing but water on the stone then proceeded with X strokes to perform the final polish. I got a wonderfully sharp edge popping hairs left and right when I felt it was finished and I was not achieving anything that seemed finer.

I decided to do the final polishing on a Crox strop and tested the edge - hairs falling silently when touched to the edge so I was ready to give it a test shave.

How was the shave? It started out a bit harsh and didn't get any better. I could have continued the shave with it but decided not to and switched to another blade that was honed on more modern synthetics which finished out the job smoothly and comfortably.

Have a lost my touch with the Belgians? I dunno. It was a modern Belgian that I used for this honing whereas all my previous honing work from years ago was done on vintage Belgian coticules from the days when they were prized by barbers for their velvet edge.

Methinks I am spoiled, actually, as the synthetics produce a much keener edge than anything we used to use that was natural. I am thinking I might need to go the Dr. Moss special route - Shapton pro's for future honings.

More to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:19 pm

Well, today I shaved with the same razor and the shave was very good and pretty comfortable. I touched it up a week ago on my Belgian coticules (some vintage, some newer). Why the difference? I have been doing some reading and reflecting on honing with the old stones. I wondered how I could have gotten such a smooth edge in the past with little issue but now taking a blade through modern methods could not achieve the same result. Now mind you, those shave of yore were never quite as close (especially on the first pass) as my blades honed later on modern edges. Technique is what got me a closer shave in those days, I think (little more against the grain, less pressure and consistent angle etc).

Reading musings about the net something struck me - none of my hones in the old days were lapped. They were all dished to an extent. I know this because I remember reading about the need to flatten my coticules and thinking I've never done so in all the years I've been using them. Then I obtained some diamond plate hones years ago and flattened them. It took quite a bit of effort to flatten them and I remember thinking that these must be way out of alignment. You could see daylight in the dished area when they were held against a diamond plate. A light bulb went off in my head - a dished hone may not be so bad after all, especially a dished Belgian coticule. I have no more dished coticules so for this experiment so I decided to tape my spine - three layers and set a secondary bevel during that touch up. When I was finished I stropped on linen then leather - no pastes. The result was the clean, close, yet comfortable, shave I got today. To boot it looked wonderful afterward even though I could feel it was not quite as close - in a minor number of places - as my synthetically honed blades.

I am in the middle of taking an old French blade and honing it strictly on coticules to further such observations. The blade is old, probably made in the 1960's and it's been neglected so it had quite a few deep divots as well as a few pits at the edge that made themselves known during the bevel setting process. I've honed these out (after much effort on heavy slurry) and believe I've hit good steal. No tape used up until this point. I will now apply tape in the coming days and cut a secondary bevel to mimic a dished coticule. I'll strop and shave just as I did before - no pastes involved. I'll let you know how it works out.

More to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby Squire » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:06 am

That's interesting Chris, yes keep us informed on the experiment.
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:03 pm

Squire, thanks for the encouragement, I will endeavor to keep things interesting in an otherwise dry subject. :)

Short update today. I shaved Thursday (yesterday) with the same blade and it seemed a little lacking, not as sharp as the previous shave. I then shaved again today with the same blade without any touch up, just a regular stropping. The blade seemed great! I thought the variation may be due to the fact that after it's last bread-knifing on the G20 stone I went back to the Belgian for about 20 to 30 laps and then thumbnail tested. Seemed nice and dug into the nail slightly with a good draw, very similar to what I usually look for in that test. I followed with normal stropping (Finnegan Method) which resulted in the reported smooth shave on Wednesday.

Well, I taped the spine with three layers today and gave it over 100 passes on a clean coticule (no slurry whatsoever). No thumbnail test this time as I didn't think it necessary given it's previous performance. I stropped as per usual and did the hanging hair test. It passed with flying colors (no indicator of smoothness, mind you). I'll shave again with it tomorrow to see how it goes.

As usual, the TI Eagles are on standbye should anything go awry.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby drmoss_ca » Sat Jun 21, 2014 3:34 am

I have always found coticules a bit hit or miss. There are so many opportunities for unwanted variables in making slurry, and no guarantee that this natural sedimentary rock is of uniform abrasiveness. I appreciate the pleasure you get when it turns out right and you have taken a dull edge all the way to shave-ready on a single stone, but in my case that is a matter of luck and not a result of skill. I'd rather have hones with uniformly-sized grains of abrasive of known size and even spacing even if a need several simply because it makes my job easier. I have to salute those who prefer to make it more difficult for themselves—you are the real experts!

With respect to lapping, I have an odd observation about the Naniwa hones. When I first got them I was amazed at the simple power of using them in a series. Once a razor got in the groove with a proper bevel setting it was routine for it to improve (as expected) after each hone and come out at the far end perfect. I decided to lap them in case they were getting loaded with steel fragments and was very surprised to discover they were convex on the surface as each and every one developed an elliptical area of wear starting in the centre. I had to continue until I had made this ellipse as large as I could, which took a long time as it involved much removal of hone substrate. The surface in the lapped area looked different, with more obvious patterns of dark particles than in the unlapped areas. Worst of all, they still work very satisfactorily, but I don't get the magical edges with such ease. They were lapped on a Shapton DGLP with lots of water. I think I'll just replace the set since they are so cheap.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Tue Jun 24, 2014 5:03 pm

Dr. Moss, I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. With respect to natural stones I think it is just as you describe. I am pursuing this route to help my understanding of what I blindly followed in my youth. I may or may not have all the clarification I seek in my lifetime.

I am starting to think that folks in the past didn't really use one stone. My limited experience from youth is that none of the barbers I've consulted with ever mentioned flattening a hone nor have any or the vintage Belgians I've seen ever had a slurry stone. I also think there may be a dearth of practical experience recorded from the old days regarding this point so things are not clear. I am wondering if barbers and the like received razors from the manufacturer that were close to sharp by preparation on whatever naturals and synthetics that were available and then finished them on the stones that tradition put forth as practical. Their edges reflected skill and equipment. I think a lot of barbers may have struggled in their off hours to get the edge their superiors got. As they struggled they perhaps dished the hone in time and eventually got what they sought (though not what we can get with exemplary synthetics). I think there may have been a lot of borrowing of older stones, perhaps.

I recall that the first razor I purchased at the age of 12/13 was passable in keeness. But within a few weeks or so I remember mucking up the edge somehow and then went back and purchased the more expensive model (their were only two straights available at the place I bought from, a cheaper one and a more expensive one for only a few dollars more). When I got the more expensive model (that no name brand I mentioned) it was completely not ready for shaving and wouldn't cut a whisker. Following my barber's advice I honed it on an old Arkansas and within a few strokes I got the edge I was seeking. That old stone was never lapped and well used. It was probably dished. I shaved with that edge for at least six months before I felt the need for a rehoning. This pattern of borrowing the hone went on for at least a decade or more. Never was it flattened.

With that small anecdotal experience I am starting to explore. Every barber praised the Belgian, hence my seeking of it in the years before ebay. By that time the old Yahoo SRP had started and my journey into all sorts of hones including synthetics (read Norton 4/8) as well as Belgians. And so it continues.

More to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:59 pm

I thought the French blade was ready but I was wrong. Once I started to cut the secondary bevel imperfections started to appear. Losing patience I took to the Shaptons, beginning on the 1k to just hone out any bad steel. Wow are these fast. I progressed to the 4k Shapton after I perceived that all questionable steel had been removed. Then it was to the Belgian with slurry to bring the edge back to a Belgian edge. Once satisfied I cut the secondary bevel and tested. It's not ready yet so I put it away to complete for another day.

I then took up my no-name replica for a touch up. Bread-knifed it on the G20 and then on to the Belgian to set the edge with the trilayer of tape. I got it to the point where I thought it was good put it away for today's shave. It wasn't where it needed to be so out came the Eagle. Finished up and all was well.

The trilayer was made with a new nylon role of electrical tape which didn't quite feel as thick as the previous role, of which I have no idea what it was made from. So some of the issue may be from that. I'll take it back to the stone with the same tape until I see an improvement but that is for another day. Until then Vive Le Aigle!

More to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Fri Jul 04, 2014 2:54 pm

Small update on the replica blade today.

Seeking to take it to a shave ready condition I did in excess of 100 passes on the Belgian then examined it under 100X magnification. There was a divot out of the edge somewhere which looked like it was the result of oxidized steel failing (maybe a pit from neglect). I decided to hone it out using the Belgian and some slurry. Very time consuming.

Not wanting to use anything but natural stones on this but wanting to move a little faster I fished around and decided to use my Conk Arkansas stone with a slurry raised by my coarse diamond plate. WOW, did this configuration cut fast! The divot was gone lickety-split. All this done with a trilayer of tape. I then cleaned the Conk and did 10-20 passes normally as honing and examined the edge again under magnification. The edge looked smooth and ready for the Belgian. So back to the Belgian with slurry for maybe 100 passes back and forth honing. Kept the same trilayer of tape all the way. Then I cleared the Belgian of slurry, bread-knifed the blade and honed normal for 100 passes. I then stropped on the magic strop - linen then leather - and tested. Wow, very keen. I stropped on my vintage waxed linen and put the blade away the next day's shave. I shaved yesterday with no issues - smooth and very keen. Again today with the same results. Fantastic looking shave with absolutely no irritation. Not as close as the uber-sharp edges obtained with synthetic hones but definitely close and smooth. Kept the same trilayer all the way through this.

Will be looking to see how long I can keep this up with this blade before it goes South.

One other thing I'm testing is my vintage waxed linen strop. Taking a page from Dr. Moss's book I strop on the vintage waxed linen after I shave and then put the blade away. I am theorizing that this may help preserve the edge because this strop clearly leaves a wax film on the edge and spine when used. This would be very close to what I did as a kid since my first strop had a green waxy coating to it. I used to get six months out of an edge back in those days so maybe this was how.

More to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Sun Jul 06, 2014 4:02 pm

Took the obscure French blade today through a similar progression with a trilayer of electrical tape - Conk with slurry, breadknife, Conk without slurry, breadknife, Belgian with slurry, breadknife, Belgian for 80 passes normal honing without slurry and fresh water every 20 strokes - then thumbnail test - superb. Twenty more regular honing strokes on the Belgian followed by an examination under magnification - flawless. Then it was 100 passes on both the linen and then again on the leather of Magic Strop (Finnegan stropping). Examined again under magnification and is was still flawless. Hairs fell silently and with no resistance for the HHT. From here the blade got Vaselined and put on deck for when the replica blade gave way.

Speaking of the replica it's still going strong with no change in feel etc. Still doing the post shave stropping on the waxed linen.

Used it with a cream yesterday and it worked pretty flawlessly. Used it with the Taylor's soap today and again a flawless shave.

For me, cream shaves are not quite as close as soap shaves but this blade did OK. Still not as close as a soap but pretty good for a cream. I'm really running low on this last cake of Taylor's so I'm casting about to make it last as much as possible until October. I'll be lucky to make the end of July in reality though, even with rotating stuff. In which case I may have to break out the Yardley to get me there.

Even though soaps cut closer for me they still seem to make a more comfortable lather. Can't explain it except to chalk it up to my skin's reaction to glycerin, of which, creams are loaded.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:38 pm

Very short update today. Replica blade still going strong and seemingly getting smoother and yet keener at the same time. Part of that observation may be due to today's shaving soap - Yardley. The last of the Taylor's cake gave up the ghost yesterday. Broke out what I think is a WWII era cake of Yardley. It's the older type wooden bowl with the narrower base and the Prince of Wales Feathers. The address is blacked out though with what looks like black tape specifically in a semi-circular configuration. Haven't attempted to peal it off.

Anyway, the lather was fantastic. It is almost as if there is some type of oil in this stuff for some reason. I am always amazed when I use a cake of this stuff. It reminds me a lot of the Taylor's and Floris of old. The scent on this cake was strong and seemed to have a heavy herbal note to it that was vetiver-like. I speculate that this may be because the lavender oil has broken down? Anyway it still smelled good and performed wonderfully.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Fri Jul 11, 2014 3:18 pm

Another small update. Replica still going strong and performing excellently with the Yardley shaving bowl. These two seem like they were made for each other in the sense that they are probably from the same era. Anyway, pleased as can be with this combination and continuing performance.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:52 pm

Still going . . .

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby Squire » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:19 am

Onward and upward.
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:25 pm

On Wednesday last the shave seemed a little harsh. I suspected the Yardley was part of the problem. Subsequent action helped to bolster this assessment but it is not confirmed. Here's what happened:

Wednesday it was as normal - replica blade and Yardley. Got some irritation on the right side of my neck in a place I almost never get it unless I screw up some how. Thursday, same blade and soap with same irritation and even more so in other places - indication the soap is not working that well. I've had some reaction to a previous Yardley cake of the same vintage in the past so no surprise. Later cakes are different somehow as I got through several from the late 50's with no problem, years ago.

Anyway, Thursday Evening brought dinner and cocktails with old friends - just me and not the wife. When I got home the house looked empty and my neighbor's wife came running down the street to tell me that my youngest child (my 2 yo son) was in the intensive care unit at the hospital due to a near drowning at my in-laws residence (they have a pool which my wife takes them to in the Summer). Well, the rest of the week and weekend are spent in the ICU with the kid so it's a bit like traveling as far as upkeep of person is concerned. Packed the obscure French blade I just honed in case replica blade was failing and I packed a new cake of Taylor's. Great combo that worked a treat to help me stay presentable for those attending my son. I believe this helps with rapport in most professional interactions.

Everything worked out with my son as he recovered in record time according to the physicians. He's home now and back to his old self - no issues whatsoever - so we believe we have received our miracle - AMDG.

This weekend I'll get back to replica blade in it's present condition and report it's performance.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby Squire » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:33 am

Glad tragedy was avoided Chris, it's hard to keep tabs on the little ones. Of course when he gets to be a teen ager you can threaten to toss him back in the pool.
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby jww » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:46 am

Squire wrote:Glad tragedy was avoided Chris, it's hard to keep tabs on the little ones. Of course when he gets to be a teen ager you can threaten to toss him back in the pool.

+1

Good to know family is well.
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby brothers » Tue Jul 22, 2014 6:32 am

. . . we believe we have received our miracle - AMDG. Chris



Best news ever!
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:35 pm

Gentlemen, thank you. Nothing can prepare a man for hearing that his child has been in an accident from which he may not live. I am most humbled and eternally grateful for the deliverance of my child and I pray for all the families that don't get that outcome. Walking the corridors of that ICU (it's a Children's Hospital) I was brought to tears many times. I cannot fathom the alternative to what I was given.

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Re: Back to the basics

Postby EL Alamein » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:45 pm

On a lighter note I learned something while in the hospital: rinsing my blade between passes seems better than merely wiping it off on tissue paper between passes. Wonderfully improved glide every time. I have been a staunch advocate for wiping but my mind is changed, for now.

See, these hospital bathroom zinks don't have flat surfaces to lay anything on - not even a rubber lather wiping bowl. So I did the needful and rinsed between passes, theorizing that my obscure French blade wouldn't rust or get water marks from such a short visit. Well, I'm ready to subject that blade to even more of it even if to see if it affects blade longevity and cosmetic appearance. The Eagles will have to wait their turn for this as I'm wary of subjecting them to the same due to them supposedly being the old lead hardened TI's from the days of yore (paging Doctor Moss, paging Doctor Moss :D ).

Time will tell and more to come.

Chris
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Re: Back to the basics

Postby Squire » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:46 am

I'm a proponent of rinsing rather than wiping. Wiping probably originated with barbers who didn't have another practical way to do it.
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